EU Trade Ministers Stress Significance of Free Trade with Eastern Partners, Open Way to Investment Negotiations with China

21 October 2013, Last updated at, 15:00 EEST
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author: The Council of the European Union

EU trade ministers have in the Foreign Affairs Council on October 18 in Luxembourg stressed the importance of signing or initialling free trade agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in the upcoming Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit and expressed concern about the Russian pressure. They also adopted the mandate to start negotiations on investment agreement with China.

“The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade agreements will take relations with the Eastern Partners to a new stage. Their implementation will bring strong benefits both to the European Union and partner countries. Provided the agreement with Ukraine is signed, it is very important to ensure its provisional application,” said chair of the Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius.

Ministers have expressed strong concern about political and economic pressure exerted by Russia on Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and supported possible preferential EU trade measures to support Eastern partners. Ministers also condemned Russia’s discriminatory trade measures against Lithuania and underlined the necessity to defend the interests of EU exporters and to aim for a rapid lifting of these restrictions. The outcome of the discussions will be relayed to the European Council on October 24–25 which will discuss preparations for Vilnius Summit.

The Foreign Affairs Council on Trade issues has adopted the mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a bilateral EU–China investment agreement, which would be the first EU stand-alone investment agreement.

“The EU–China investment agreement would be a major step forward in our economic relations with China and would ensure higher level of investment protection and improve access to Chinese market for EU investors,” said minister Linkevičius.

The Council also updated the mandate for the Commission to include investment protection provisions in the ongoing EU–ASEAN free trade negotiations with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ministers discussed the EU trade relations with key strategic partners, USA and Japan, and were informed by the EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht that a tentative agreement has been reached with Canada on Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement after long and complicated negotiations.

In preparation for the 9th WTO Ministerial conference on December 3–6 in Bali, Indonesia, the Ministers reiterated the necessity to achieve ambitious and balanced results with Trade Facilitation agreement at its core. Ambitious and binding Trade Facilitation agreement would bring significant economic benefits for EU companies by introducing transparent and simplified customs procedures and reducing trading costs.

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